Be careful what you wish for

Commentary submitted by Karen Codman

As medical insurance costs continue to rise, politicians and analysts have made several proposals to try and broaden medical coverage across the population.
Most of these involve a radical restructuring of how we pay for medical care; an example of this is the “single payer” plan of State Senator Sheila Kuehl, in which the government would allocate health care to its citizens and pay for it directly(with revenues from increased taxes).
Senator Kuehl holds out the example of Canada’s government-run health care systems, as did her ally Michael Moore in his movie SiCKO. They argue that the Canadian system is cheaper, provides better care, and covers the entire Canadian population, making it far preferable to our own system.
But if we are able to use the Canadian model as a basis for policy discussions in the United States, we need to ask: why did a prominent Canadian politician come to California for medical treatment last June, instead of getting it in her own country?
Liberal member of Parliament Belinda Stronach was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. As part of her treatment, she flew down to California to have an operation. When news of her trip became public, her spokesman Greg MacEachern said that the California hospital was the best place to have the required surgery. But he insisted that the reason for the trip was not so that Stronach could avoid the notorious Canadian waiting lists. This may even be true. But it is a matter of public record that Canadian citizens often wait months for lifesaving procedures.
There is a thriving “medical tourism” trade in which Canadians enter America and pay for urgent medical care that they can’t get in their own county. The problem is so acute that in June 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Quebec’s health care systems as unconstitutional, ruling that long waiting times violate an individual’s right to preserve his own health. Brett J. Skinner and Mark Rovere, in their May 2007 Fraser Institute publication “California Dreaming,” write that “Millions of Canadian patients wait so long for treatment that in many ways, they are no better off than uninsured Americans.”
But let us return to MacEachern’s statement that the California hospital was the best place for Stronach to have her surgery. According to Skinner and Rovere, this is not an isolated phenomenon. “Health care appears to costs less in Canada than in the United States largely because Canadian public health insurance does not cover many advanced medical treatments and technologies that are commonly available to Americans. Canadian patients do not get the same quality or quantity of care as American patients. On a comparable basis, Canadians have fewer doctors, less high-tech equipment, older hospitals, and get fewer advanced medicines than Americans.” Furthermore, they write, “The Canadian health-insurance system is still among the most expensive in the world and does not return good value for money spent.”
According to a study published in August in The Lancet Oncology, cancer survival rates are higher in America than in any country in the European Union, for both men and women. (This includes the vaunted medical systems of the Scandinavian countries.) With all of its flaws, our systems still provides the best medical care in the world.
In making their case for government-controlled medical care, advocates have stated that such a system with both control costs and improve care. This flies in the face of all available evidence, both from the medical systems of other countries and from other programs of the California state government (Do you really want your medical care to run by the people who brought us the DMV?). But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Belinda Stronach.

Karen Codman is an investment advisor representative and employee benefits specialist serving Long Beach and surrounding areas. Securities provided by FSC Securities Corp., a member of FINRA and SIPC. She can be contacted at her office, 4134 Atlantic Avenue, #201 or by calling (562) 988-1079.

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